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Shins seem to sing of cicadas

DeathPopular Music (genre)NPR

It appears that a band from Albuquerque, N.M. - a distinctly cicada-free zone - has unwittingly written the perfect anthem to this buzzy season. The band is the Shins, known for shimmering, melodic pop songs, and the song is "Those to Come" from the album Chutes Too Narrow.

Part of the lyrics:

Quaking leaves and broken light

Shifting skin the coming night

The bearers of all good things arrive

Climb inside us, twist and cry

A kiss on your molten eyes

Myriad lives like blades of grass

Yet to be realized, bow as they pass

They are cold,

Still,

Waiting in the ether,

To form,

Feel,

Kill,

Propagate,

Only to die.

Dissolve

Magically,

Absurdly,

They'll end,

Leave,

Dissipate,

Coldly

And strangely

Return.

Wow. They nailed it. And the album came out last fall, when no one was even thinking about cicadas. Still, the lyrics almost perfectly mirror the cicadas' life-cycle.

The "shifting skin" of course refers to the cicadas shedding their exoskeletons before taking flight. The "myriad lives" makes perfect sense, since there are billions of the things. They wait in the cold earth for 17 years to finally "form," emerge and "propagate." Most of them die, but not before billions of eggs are left so the species will live on. There is something "magical" and "absurd" about them, and soon after they arrive, they're gone. But you know they will, "strangely, return."

The Shins' lead singer and songwriter James Mercer said he didn't have cicadas in mind when he wrote the song. "I was thinking more of human souls and stuff," he said in an interview from his home in Portland, Ore., the band's current home. But he admits the connection "is really strange" and he's happy to lend us the song for this season.

"You can call it the cicada theme," he said. "That's awesome."

The parallels were brought to our attention by alert Sun reader and Shins fan Amy Cowles, a John Hopkins University publicist who was listening to a National Public Radio report on cicadas when, creeped out, she flipped on her CD player. The Shins' "Those to Come" came on and the lyrics resonated like they never had before.

"This is too weird," she remembers thinking.

Or too wonderful.

Observed any cicada weirdnesses of your own? Send them by mail to Cicada Buzz, c/o Features Dept., The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278; or by e-mail to sun.features@ baltsun.com, subject line Cicada Buzz.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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